HFC Phasedown. New Refrigerants Coming
The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol establishes a global structure for the phasedown of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). This is a path strongly supported by our industry. HFC products, R410A and R407A that are used by Desert Aire today were introduced in 2006 to incorporate non-ozone depleting refrigerants in our HVAC units. This was an excellent move for the world, but these newer refrigerants were still considered high in their Global Warming Potential (GWP) due to their persistence in the upper atmosphere.
The Kigali Amendment, currently adopted by 197 countries, will phase down HFCs. Under the amendment, countries committed to cut the production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80 percent over the next 25 years.
The phasedown puts a maximum cap on the production of new, virgin refrigerant, so the only way to keep old machines operational will be to reclaim the old refrigerant. Just as we encountered in the last change over, the price of the old refrigerant will continue to increase as the supply gets tighter.
At the end of 2020, at the urging of our trade association, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), Congress passed and President Trump signed, the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act. This act gives the EPA the ability to regulate HFCs and establish a national HFC phasedown structure that mirrors the intent of the Kigali Amendment.
While the Kigali Amendment is not currently recognized by the Federal Government, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently passed the Kigali Amendment out of committee for ratification by the full Senate. 67 votes (two-thirds of the Senate) would be required for ratification of the amendment. This ratification will solidify the approaches already underway with the AIM act and EPA authority.
Global warming potential is an indicator aimed at establishing a single value to provide a metric of how substances contribute to the greenhouse effect. This metric is expressed in a multiplier of "CO2 equivalent", where the greenhouse effect attributed to CO2 set at 1.
Under the Significant New Alternative Policy (SNAP), the EPA has published rules concerning refrigerants that will be acceptable in specific applications. The refrigerants approved in refrigeration and air conditioning generally have a GWP of less than 750. Some states are looking into separate rules that would limit the GWP directly and it is expected in 2023 that the EPA will issue sector-specific GWP limits for residential and light commercial air conditioning and commercial air conditioning equipment.
As we continue to be concerned with climate change, it is always good to note that our industry has had an excellent history of improving our products to be more energy-efficient as well as making environmentally-friendly changes in the type of refrigerant we have used inside our equipment. The table below highlights the improvement in the GWP of any refrigerant that might be leaked to the environment.
Desert Aire has made the decision to move to R454B which is classified as an A2L refrigerant, which means it is non-toxic and has low flammability. Significant testing has been done by the insurance industry and this new refrigerant is now being written into the building codes as acceptable with certain provisions. R454B is approved in the application and has a GWP 78% lower than R410A. In addition, it operates at similar pressure and temperatures as R410 in most applications.
When Desert Aire implemented the last refrigerant change, there were many issues that made the conversion challenging. This conversion will present its own challenges. You should be ready for the following:
- Building codes must adopt the use of these low-flammability refrigerants.
- A new UL safety standard (UL 60335-2-40) is required for the new refrigerant as the previous standard UL1995 does not address the requirements around refrigerant flammability and it has been determined that units containing A2L refrigerants cannot be listed under this standard.
- Component OEMs will be introducing their new products in steps, so not all component sizes will be available at the same time.
- Individual model's performance and efficiency ratings will be slightly different.
- Refrigerant availability will be limited until the new production facilities become fully operational.
- Contractors must be trained to handle the new low-flammability refrigerants.
Desert Aire is committed to reducing global warming and will be proactive in updating our customers on our introduction of products that incorporate the new refrigerant.
More information about Transitioning to Low-GWP Alternatives in Commercial Refrigeration from the EPA's Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP).